Helpful Hurricane Tips

Whenever the National Hurricane Center expects “severe hurricane conditions” over your locations of business, datacenters or headquarters, please pay attention to these helpful tips.  While public safety and rescue operations are always the top priorities following a disaster scenario, there are a number of other processes and practices you should put into place to ensure that their you are able to recover and resume operations as quickly as possible.

Contact Information and Planned Communications

Throughout the storm and its aftermath, it’s critical that you are able to communicate with customers, vendors, solution providers and partners that maintain or support the systems and technologies in your portfolio. Ensure that you have access to both electronic and hard copies of relevant contact information, incident response plans and other documentation that will be used during any recovery efforts following the storm.
We will be carefully monitoring affected endpoints and devices at your sites, and will proactively reach out to any impacted clients to offer technical assistance and support. Please ensure you have access to the appropriate contact information for the NetTec NSI team, Help Desk and Network Operations Center (NOC) in advance of any power failure or outages. We recommend maintaining both electronic and hard copies of this information. For any sites that are leveraging our Help Desk, we will have the appropriate staff in place to provide support to any impacted end users.

Communications

We also encourage you to be as proactive as possible in communications with your users, particularly as it relates to data recovery efforts. In addition to contacting users and sites via phone or email when possible, we recommend adding important updates and alerts to your website, social media accounts and any customer-facing portals or systems.
Unfortunately, these natural disasters are also often followed by spikes in malicious email scams or phishing attempts disguised as relief efforts and opportunities to donate or support those who have been affected. It’s important to remain aware and vigilant in detecting these, and to educate your users so they can effectively identify and distinguish legitimate communications from malicious content.

Data Recovery and Restoration Efforts

In any disaster situation, the recovery and restoration of client data is a top priority for us. Testing and verifying backups, ensuring recovery processes and plans are well-documented and staffing accordingly are all essential in the weeks and days leading up to a storm. The ability to effectively triage, prioritize and address incidents based on severity will also help ensure recovery efforts are occurring as efficiently as possible.    
For clients protected by NetTec NSI data backup services, we will be working around-the-clock to ensure downtime and data loss are both minimized. Our technical support teams remain available 24x7, and our NOC is prepared to offer its full support with virtualization and restoration efforts. We have already begun proactively verifying backups, conducting DR tests and taking other measures to minimize data loss and ensure both you and your customers will be able to resume normal operations as quickly as possible in the event of any downtime.

Additional Resources and Materials

The following links contain additional information and resources that may be helpful:

Hurricane Updates (National Hurricane Center)
Disaster Planning (Ready, DHS)
Hurricane Preparedness Checklist (PrepareMyBusiness)
Small Business Preparedness Guide (U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation)
Evacuation Routes 

A Guide to Ransomware Attacks

In a matter of hours, the new Petya ransomware spread its way across 65 countries. While WannaCry and Petya aren’t the first versions of ransomware, they are a new breed of ransomware, ones that use powerful exploits to enable rapid propagation within and to new organizations. As a managed services provider (MSP), it’s imperative that we understand this ransomware outbreak and how it can affect us or our clients’ businesses. Don’t know what Petya is or how you can stay protected? Here is your guide.

What is Petya?

Petya ransomware is part of a new wave of ransomware attacks that has hit computer servers across Europe, particularly in the Ukraine and Russia. It is hijacking computer data, infecting and encrypting all the user’s files and displaying messages demanding a Bitcoin ransom worth $300. With most ransomware strains, victims who do not have recent backups of their files are faced with a decision to either pay the ransom or kiss their files goodbye.

This new strain has worked its way around the world at alarming speed. The ransomware spread using a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows that the software giant patched in March 2017—the same bug that was exploited by WannaCry. Microsoft released a patch for the Eternal Blue exploit, but many businesses put off installing the fix. Many of those that procrastinated were hit with the WannaCry ransomware attacks in May, and may still be vulnerable. The first hit were government and financial institutions in the Ukraine, which metastasized to about 2,000 computer systems around the world. 

How to Protect Against Petya

Luckily, there are various safeguards you can take to protect yourself and your clients from Petya.

Patch, Patch, Patch

I feel like a broken record on this because people have been saying it for years, but the best ways to protect against these attacks is to stay as up to date as possible with patches and educate your users. Petya, like Wannacry and so many other attacks, relies on outdated patches to infect systems and propagate into new systems. However, Petya went one step further by having the ability to propagate to fully patched systems once it got into your environment. This means that a single, low-value system missing a patch can serve as an entry point and allow the ransomware to infect fully patched, higher-value systems. In the end, patching is only as good as your weakest link—meaning companies need to be more vigilant than ever when patching their systems.  If you are subscribed to our RMM Total Desktop Care+ service, your systems were patched and maintained for you.

Realize the Difference Between Owning Security Tools and Using Them

The reality of both Petya and Wannacry is that even if you weren’t patching, basic security tools that most organizations own—such as antivirus and other endpoint protection tools—would prevent any damage from these attacks. But how did so many organizations get impacted? The answer is simple: they, like many organizations, lacked adequate management of their security tools.

Investing in security tools is a great step towards securing yourself, but realize that installing these tools without any ongoing management is like owning a car you never fill up with gas. It might look good in your driveway but it isn’t able to do what it was designed to do.  If you are using our RMM Total Desktop Care+ services, we have monitored and maintained your antivirus and antimalware.

Understand the Limitations of Basic Protection Tools

These attacks are a scary reminder of the changing threat landscape—one that is especially impacting small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). SMBs used to be able to safely assume that the advanced attacks would be focused on large corporations and governments because there wasn’t enough to gain using these mechanisms against them. However, with these recent attacks they need to realize how that reality has shifted.

These attacks focus on a volume based mentality. For example, getting small amounts from lots of people, versus large amounts from a single company. They use very powerful exploits, created by government intelligence agencies, to allow them to have broad-based, unfocused attacks that are just as likely to cripple a Mom and Pop Shop as a multinational bank.

Your SMB clients need to realize that while antivirus and firewalls are incredibly effective in reducing risk, they need to begin to think about increasing the security solutions they have in place. Given this new landscape, SMBs can turn to you to put technologies in place to detect and respond to threats and breaches when they do penetrate their defenses but before they have a chance to do harm. Additionally, you must implement a proper, reliable backup and disaster recovery (BDR) solution with online and offline backup solutions as the ultimate failsafe against successful attacks.  If you are using our Remote Desktop Services, we’ve got your data backed up and secure.

Bottom Line

This Petya ransomware outbreak is yet another reminder that the threat landscape is ever evolving and growing more sophisticated. While there are many unknowns, there are some basic steps you can take to reduce the risk of cyber attacks and provide your clients with secure IT services.

Here at NetTec NSI, we continue to work with our partners and the overall industry to protect our own environment as well as the environments you manage. We’re happy to say that our tools and processes ensure that none of our systems or clients’ systems were impacted by WannaCry or Petya. Moreover, we will continue to be vigilant in our efforts to keep our clients and their end-users protected against the next possible threat.
 

Windows 10 Delivery Suboptimization

If you have Windows 10  systems in your network you could have major network issues due to a default setting Microsoft has enabled in the update settings called Delivery Optimization.  While Delivery Optimization may be a good thing for Microsoft, it could be seriously bad for your network and internet bandwidth.

Microsoft says "Windows Update Delivery Optimization lets you get Windows updates and Windows Store apps from sources in addition to Microsoft. This can help you get updates and apps more quickly if you have a limited or unreliable Internet connection. And if you own more than one PC, it can reduce the amount of Internet bandwidth needed to keep all of your PCs up-to-date. Delivery Optimization also sends updates and apps from your PC to other PCs on your local network or PCs on the Internet."  While this may be true in some situations, our testing shows otherwise.  We've seen 70 Gbps internet connections reduced to less than 3 Mbps when Delivery Optimization is enabled.  Our research has not determined the exact cause, but we can say that disabling Delivery Optimization resolved the bandwidth issue.  

How do I turn Delivery Optimization off?
Here’s how:

  1. Go to Start  windows logo, then Settings > Update & security > Windows Update, and then select Advanced options.
  2. On the Advanced options page, select Choose how updates are delivered, and then use the toggle to turn Delivery Optimization off. When turned off, you'll still get updates and apps from Windows Update and from the Windows Store.

If you’d just like to stop downloading updates and apps from PCs on the Internet, select PCs on my local network.

Our recommendation for now is to disable Delivery Optimization on all Windows 10 systems at this time.  Obviously testing is recommended and needed for every specific deployment.  So, give us a call and we can do this for you or check your Windows update settings and test disabling Delivery Optimization to see if you get better performance from your networks. 

What protects me? Part 1: Managed Services & Surge Protection

This article is a multi-part post about how businesses can protect their IT.  

As a business owner or manager, do you wonder what's protecting your systems, data, and users from potential failure?  You should.  Studies suggest that between 60 to 90 percent of businesses that have a catastrophic systems or data failure don't recover, in other words, they go out of business.  What does that mean for you?  It means that you should frequently assess what your businesses is doing to protect systems, data and users. 

Managed Services

The first item on the list is systems.  How are you protecting your systems?  If you're using a service like NetTec NSI's Managed Services, much of the protection is covered by the Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM).  With Total Desktop Care+ (TDC+) and Preferred Server Care, your desktop and server systems are monitored and maintained 24x7x365.  With RMM, your systems are protected with included up to date anti-virus and anti-malware.  Whenever there is an operating system update, your systems are patched.  According to PC World, unpatched systems are the #1 cyber security risk.

 

With managed services your systems are patched correctly and quickly.  Whenever any system misses a patch, our team is notified and can take action to secure it.  With central monitoring, included in our managed services any virus or malware outbreak will generate an alert.

Power Protection

One component of systems protection that is often neglected is power protection.  Without clean and uninterrupted power a computer can't function properly.  A simple surge protector that carries a monetary protection guarantee is a basic measure you can add to help make sure that surges caused from lightening and supply issues don't harm your systems.  When protecting systems from power surges, you need to make sure that you protect everything that is or can connect to your network physically.  That means that all wired devices like printers, displays (monitors), speakers, switches, routers, access points and anything that uses AC power and connects to any of your systems or to your network physically with a wire is plugged into a surge protector that has a monetary guarantee.  The guarantee should say something like this...

Manufacturer backs the surge protector with a lifetime equipment replacement guarantee of $xx,xxx. If your electronic equipment is damaged by a surge when using the surge protector manufacturer will reimburse you up to $xx,xxx for replacement.

If your surge protection has no replacement guarantee, find a new surge protector.  Perform a power audit and check everything.  If there is any one thing you don't surge protect, that is where the next surge will enter and there is no practical way of knowing what damage a surge will do and to what piece of hardware.  Anything connected to your system is vulnerable if you forget to protect just one thing.  Remember that electricity chooses the path of least resistance; in other words, it will go to wherever it needs to go to get to a ground and that may or may not be through your server, your SAN, or your secretary's monitor.  It will damage hardware along the way in a somewhat random path.  If a system is even partially damaged from a power surge, the only way to know that it is 100% fixed is to replace all of it.  Losing a monitor or external hard drive might not be a big deal to some but if that external drive contained the only copy of your new marketing project, this could be expensive.  Be on the safe side and protect everything.

For more, please read What protects me? Part 2: UPSes and Firewalls

Windows 10 Free Upgrade - Expires July 29, 2016

Windows 10 Free Upgrade – Expires July 29, 2016

We are less than 3 months away from the expiration date for your free Windows 10 upgrade (for Windows 7 and 8 users only).  After that, the upgrade price for Windows 10 Pro will be $199.  Don’t delay!  If you are looking to save money, this is one easy way to do it!

Ned help upgrading?  You will find answers here to your questions about using Windows 10 on your PC.

a better "VPN"

The concept of a VPN has been in existence for decades.  IT architects, network technicians, IT guys and geeks set them up and require them for a large number of large and small business networks, but is this the best way to achieve what both the IT guys, the users and the company owners want?  Maybe not.  There could be a better "VPN".  

First, let's take a look at the traditional VPN.  In a traditional VPN, the resources of the private network where all of the high speed, high performance servers reside are made available to locations outside of the traditional private network.  This is done by creating an encrypted tunnel through whatever provider the remote users are on, typically their internet service provider, hotspot, hotel wifi or customer site network.  The tunnel allows them to connect back to their corporate data and servers and run the applications they're used to running on their corporate network.  This is good, or at least it seems like it should be good.

At NetTec NSI, our vision is the absolute best, trouble-free technology services for business.  Because this is how we think, we're always looking for better ways to do things, so we get to "absolute best".  We believe that there is a better "VPN".  Well, it's not really a VPN in the way that the IT guys who dreamed up this technology thought of a VPN.  It's a VPN because it achieves the same goals, but does so in a much more efficient and secure way.  The NetTec NSI "VPN" is Desktop Co-op's Remote Desktop Services.  In the traditional VPN configuration, high performance applications that remote users need are designed to have a high performance network connecting back to high performance servers and databases.  As long as that network is fast, everything works well.  When the network is constrained, the apps do this; (spinning blue circle) you know you've seen it.

This is what happens when you connect a high performance app to a VPN that is on a slow connection.  It may be slow because it's being shared with Netflix or Pandora users.  It may be slow because of other applications trying to get though the same connection.  Either way, the app just spins waiting to get all the data and services from the corporate network that it thinks is available just like it was in the corporate office.  It's not and it won't ever be.  Desktop CO-op's Remote Desktop Services is a better "VPN".  It was designed to work securely (encrypted) over remote connections with limited or extremely fast bandwidth.  

In a Remote Desktop Services configuration, the high performance applications, designed to work with high performance servers and data are on the same high speed network as those servers and data.  The only thing that is remote is the device the user is using to connect to those applications.   In a Remote Desktop Services configuration, the only data that has to move over that constrained remote network back to the corporate network is made up of keyboard and mouse inputs and screenshots of the applications as they change.  This is why Remote Desktop Services is a better "VPN".  Not only will Desktop Co-op Remote Desktop Services securely connect remote users to their corporate applications, servers and data, it will do this more efficiently than a traditional VPN.  That's absolutely the best way to do remote computing.

Time for Technology

As a business decision maker, you're frequently making decisions. Technology purchasing decisions are one of these decisions that some business owners avoid.  While you may be busy and it may seem like dealing with an upgrade of your servers or a move to cloud computing will be a huge interruption to your business, avoiding the conversation won't make it go away.  You may only be delaying a very painful experience.  Imagine how busy you are now and then close your eyes and imagine all of your business computers stopped, not working, unable to help retrieve, store and process vital information for you.  How busy would you be then?

The best way to avoid that catastrophic situation is to make sure your systems are well monitored, managed and maintained.  The service that best handles this is called RMM or Remote Management and Monitoring.  With RMM, you can rest easy knowing that these things are being taken care of for you.  Your focus doesn't have to be IT, it can be your business.  Now is the Time for you to focus on Technology.  

Go through this list to understand when it is Time for Technology:

  1. Understand compliance rules and regulations.  If you don't know the rules and don't know if you're in compliance, it's time.
  2. Contact a technology expert for help.  If you can't resolve out a technical problem, don't have time to make it work right, get frustrated when things aren't working properly, it's time.
  3. Follow up with your key employee, IT guy or technology services provider.  If your employees, IT guy, or technology provider aren't giving you the results you want out of your system, it's time.
  4. Avoid putting off critical upgrades, implementations, migrations and IT purchases because they might be expensive.  The cost of not doing them may exceed any cost of doing them. If you feel like your system is vulnerable, behind on updates, or too expensive to maintain correctly, it's time to ask an expert.  
  5. You may be too busy, but think about how busy you'll be if your computers suddenly would not work.  At that point it will definitely be time, but if you act now, you will avoid unnecessary costs, confusion and frustration.

IT Support When You Need It

You’re on a deadline and a client is getting antsy, or you’re putting the finishing touches on a sales presentation. Suddenly, a vital piece of technology goes haywire. What do you do? Call the software maker? The hardware manufacturer? Do you try Google for an answer?

Assistance Is Just a Phone Call Away

Staffed by knowledgeable and well-trained IT customer-care specialists, our IT Service Desk is ready and available to quickly address your needs. Whether it’s a device, a software issue, or a problem with your network, our team will stick with you until a solution is found. From the moment your call is answered, you’ll know you’ve got the right person on the line and that you’re our top priority.So go ahead. Put your frustrations on hold … and bring your technical problems to us! 

Let our service desk experts handle your technology questions.

We've Got IT Covered

Our Service Desk support includes:

  • PC and network troubleshooting
  • Handheld device configuration and troubleshooting
  • Popular applications for business
  • Administrative tasks
  • Software installations
  • Virus/spyware removal
  • File/folder restores

Protect Your Technology Investment

When you call our IT Service Desk, we don’t just ask you how we can help; we get right down to business with:

Live Support, 24/7 – Work late? Work early? Work weekends? It doesn't matter. Anytime you run into a problem with your technical equipment, you can give our team a call.

More Experience for Swifter Issue Resolution – Our Service Desk is staffed by seasoned technicians with a minimum of two-years’ experience resolving application, desktop and network-level issues. When you call, you can count on receiving reliable top-tier support.

Microsoft Office Expertise – All Service Desk technicians are certified Microsoft Office professionals and fully qualified to deliver expert support for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.

Customer Recognition – Each time one of your users calls the Service Desk, our technician automatically sees your unique customer profile so we can move more quickly to correct your problems.

We Know Apps

Our Service Desk supports popular applications for:

  • Desktop Publishing
  • Graphics
  • Office Productivity Suites
  • Browsers
  • Email
  • Anti-Virus
  • Word Processing
  • Database
  • Domains
  • PC and Network
  • Desktop Operating Systems
  • Wireless Devices

Everyone wants fast, expert answers when unexpected problems come up. We’re ready, able and eager to give you the technical assistance you need.

Remedies for Little Things that Wreck Productivity

Not every issue is a major catastrophe … until it keeps you from doing your job. We’re more than happy to help you with administrative IT functions like:

  • Resetting passwords
  • Unlocking accounts
  • Creating user accounts and groups
  • Setting file and folder permissions
  • No problem is too small to worry about when it’s yours

Your Full-Service IT Provider

Our managed IT services cover a full spectrum of technology solutions, including remote monitoring and management of your networks, 24/7 service desk support for users, and business continuity solutions to ensure your company is prepared for any possible disruption.

The Value of Managed Services

When someone asks what your company does, you wouldn't say “managing information technology,” would you? If too much of your professional time and resources are spent outside your interest and expertise, and if IT issues distract you from growing your actual business, we have a suggestion.

Leave Your IT Troubles to Us, So You Can Get Back to Doing What You Do Best

For an easily budgeted, small, fixed monthly fee — a mere fraction of the cost of hiring a technician — we’ll take away the worry, frustration and considerable cost of managing your IT environment.  Our managed IT services solution keeps watch over your systems 24/7, and we step in the moment we discover anything amiss. In most instances, you won’t know there was ever an issue. This proactive approach to IT maintenance keeps small problems from becoming big ... and expensive!

Let us help you put your IT Budget to better use.

Our intelligent remote monitoring tools and 24/7 back-office services provide expert, cost-effective IT management to make sure your systems operate as required and deliver the ROI you expected. Key elements include:

Server Monitoring and Care

We utilize active-yet-unobtrusive software to track and analyze your server activity around the clock. When a system or function fails to work properly, an alert is generated and our team will immediately investigate the issue. Once we’ve identified the problem, we’ll take steps to fix it — remotely at first, and we’ll escalate our response

as necessary.

Desktop Monitoring and Care

Our preventive maintenance service for desktops proactively and regimentally monitors and addresses common problems experienced by desktop users. Whether it’s viruses, spyware issues or installing patches, we handle it all — quietly and in the background while your employees remain productive.

Mobile Device Management

With more companies looking for efficient, secure ways to incorporate their employees’ personally owned mobile devices into the workplace (also known as “BYOD — bring your own device”) we offer a response that answers all your needs. Our mobile device management (MDM) solution is the fastest, most comprehensive way to get devices configured for company access and to ensure that your organization’s data is secure on smartphones and tablets. As a fully integrated cloud platform, we simplify MDM with rapid deployment, as well as comprehensive visibility and control that spans across mobile devices, applications and documents.

Network and Security Assessments

How healthy is your overall network? On a regular basis, we’ll generate reports on the state of your systems, letting you know of any potential problems that fall outside safe parameters of our managed IT services.  With these comprehensive assessments, you’ll always have the best information for choosing your most effective options.

What’s more, we continually build intelligence into our remote monitoring software by documenting the resolution to thousands of issues and incorporating them back into our software. And our expert technicians work around the clock to ensure your systems not only remain healthy, but also optimized for performance. Rest assured, our team is equipped to handle even the most complex and difficult problems.

Let us answer any questions you have about our managed IT services. We’ll show you the simplest and most affordable way to keep your IT network in top form.

Rest Assured, We’ve Got IT Covered

Through our managed IT services, we’ll:

  • Maintain 24/7 watch over your entire IT environment (network servers, desktops, mobile devices, etc.)
  • Identify and analyze server “events” for potential problems
  • Remediate processes or services that fail
  • Monitor servers and ensure security patches and anti-virus protocols are up to date
  • Ensure that data backups are completed
  • Install patches and implement service packs
  • Manage and secure mobile devices (smartphones, tablets)

Your Full-Service IT Provider

Our managed IT services cover a full spectrum of technology solutions, including remote monitoring and management of your networks, 24/7 service desk support for users, and business continuity solutions to ensure your company is prepared for any possible disruption.

How valuable is technology to your business?

What kinds of technology does your business use? Accounting systems, file storage, printing, design applications, email? Security systems, remote access, point of sale?  Inventory, operations, communications, internet, customer management?  This is just a small listing of the systems people rely on to make their businesses run effectively.  The actual list is enormous and growing every minute.  

We've come a long way from the abacus and we will continue to invent and adapt and refine what helps a business run.  Sometimes people take for granted that business information systems will run reliably and perform correctly as they age and as the world around them changes.  Why is this?  Maybe the term "plug and play" has something to do with it.  We may be accustomed to plugging in technology and just "playing" with it forever, but the reality is that these systems require management to update, optimize, and monitor.   

For some businesses, technology is a mere convenience, like for instance a doctor's office with WiFi.  Having the convenience of wireless access to the network and internet is nice, but not necessary.  For others, if WiFi were to go down it would be serious and costly to the primary business functions, like for instance a warehouse company using robots to handle package delivery.  Without the communication coming in over WiFi, the robots would be lost and without direction from their controlling systems.

When a company relies on technology for important aspects of the business like a doctor's office relies on electronic medical records (EMR) and patient management systems, the value is high.  When the value of technology is high, reliability, performance, up time, remote monitoring and instant remote assistance is critical and therefore the management of those systems is critical.  Why would a company that relies greatly on technology like EMR and patient management systems choose to run those systems on unreliable methods and neglect management of those systems?  To save money?  It doesn't make sense.  What does make sense is to match the investment in systems management and maintenance with the value of the technology.  In other words, businesses should plan to spend according to how much they value the technology they use.  If the technology is of high value, the related costs to build, manage and maintain the technology may also be high.  

This should be no surprise, but for some businesses, high value technology is a new paradigm.  The recent "paperless" wave of digitizing every record and every file has been fantastic for businesses, but it has also upped the reliance on technology that stores and maintains those files.  Maybe someone said, "all you need to do is scan these records into the file server", but forgot to mention that now the file server is a single point of failure for your business, and that it has an unreliable single power supply design and no off-site backup.  Maybe someone said "all you need to do is put everything on Office 365", but forgot to mention that when your internet is down, your business will be down too and that your DSL connection is going to be overwhelmed when your entire office is using Office 365.  These things are important for businesses that rely on technology to understand and that's why it's important to have a trusted technology partner on your side when planning, implementing and maintaining the technology.  Computers, routers, wireless access points, mobile phones, tablets and servers don't just maintain themselves.  Sure they will auto-update, but do you have that function turned on?  Do you know how to? Do you know which updates to install and which ones to avoid?  Do you know how to update firmware?  Do you have someone to call when it all breaks?  Someone who will be able to remotely access your high-valued technology in minutes?  Do you care?  If you're a business owner and you're relying on it, you better.  

Give us a call.  We'll explain it all.

Why Managed Services?

Sometimes it's difficult for a business owner to understand the benefits of managed services when the owner is focused on cost savings in many aspects of the business.  Advice to cut costs on information systems may even come from what one may consider a trusted adviser like a CPA.  While keeping costs in line with industry standards is important, so is brushing your teeth and making regular visits to the dentist.  

One of our clients, a dentist needed some help in understanding why using our managed services was best for his business.  When asked if he recommended that his patients brushed their teeth and scheduled regular visits with him, he said yes of course.  The mouth is the first part of the digestive system.  Maintaining it is vital to a healthy body and having a nice clean smile and fresh breath is important to one's appearance.  When you properly maintain the systems that feed your business with information, you are taking care of the health of your business.  When you maintain your systems on a regular basis, the appearance of your business is positive as well.  Just think about the times you've been in another business that is obviously having computer problems.  That should never be your business.

Managed services is a term used for the regular maintenance of business information systems.  By subscribing to a managed services agreement, your systems will be regularly maintained with system updates, anti-virus checks, log monitoring, and pro-active solutions to performance issues.  In addition to that, when you do have a problem, unlike when you have a dental problem, you won't have to wait for assistance.  An engineer will be there instantly with remote support, which will save your business by reducing down time.  

When you subscribe to managed services, you also get priority service by trained experts for help with any system project.  These projects might include installations, upgrades, changes, backups, or cloud services.  Sometimes business owners ask an employee to perform maintenance, which may sound like a good idea and one that seems like it could save the business money, but in reality if that employee is untrained, the systems you rely on for documentation, financial reporting, organization, record processing and security of your vital data could be at risk.  With managed services your systems will be configured to run at optimal levels of performance, reliability and security.

Do your business a favor and invest in the benefits of managed services.  The benefits will pay dividends to you, your staff and your business and just like brushing your teeth, it's easy.

Apple iPhone, iPad and Mac with Office 365

I've been a user of an iPhone since the 3G and we've had clients use Apple products for several years now.  The question frequently comes up about the integration between these "iProducts" and Office 365.  I can say that the integration is very good and at times even better than with Windows products.  There are keys to making the integration smooth.  One in particular is to make sure that if you are syncing your iPhone, your iPad and your Macbook Air email, calendar and contacts with Office 365's Exchange online, you need to setup your accounts in the Mail, Calendar and Contacts settings of your devices correctly.  For best results, switch to ONLY Office 365 accounts.  If you must maintain an iCloud or Google account, make the Office 365 accounts your default.  You'll have seamless sync and won't be puzzled about where a contact or calendar item went.  

The OneDrive integration with the "iProducts" is good as well.  You will be able to access all of those files and folders from just about any device and edit them with Office WebApps.  If you want help migrating to this type of cloud based file storage, synchronization and convenience, we're happy to help!

Windows XP EOL FAQs

Windows XP was released to the public October 2001 and has been heavily supported with three service packs and extensions to the extended support, but now the time has come for Microsoft to stop supporting XP along with Exchange 2003 and Office 2003 on April 8, 2014.

Q: What do you mean Microsoft will stop supporting Windows XP?

A: If Microsoft encountered an issue with their operating system (OS) they would release monthly updates - patches - to fix any problems that occurred as long as the product is being supported by them. Once a product is no longer being supported, Microsoft WILL NOT release any updates or provide online technical assistance on Microsoft.com, which will put the machines, users, other sensitive information at risk of being compromised from hackers and other malicious software (trojans, viruses, rootkits, etc.).

Q: Will the software mentioned above still work after April 8, 2014?

A: Microsoft Windows XP, Office 2003 and Exchange 2003 will still work regardless of the products not being supported by Microsoft. The key thing is that if you encountered any problems with these services after support ends then your IT staff or consultant will be left to look for support through online forums for fixes, which will cost your company both valuable time and money. It is RECOMMENDED to upgrade to a newer version of software that is supported by Microsoft.

Q: Are there other versions of Microsoft Windows to replace Windows XP?

A: Since Windows XP is not being supported after April 8, 2014 you may be thinking of purchasing a replacement OS. Microsoft currently has on the market both Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) and Windows 8/8.1. Both of these operating systems are currently available by all major retailers, online vendors, and volume licensing with support ending after 2020. Windows Vista is also available in select arenas, but Microsoft Support for Windows Vista ends April 11th, 2017 so we recommend to avoid purchasing Windows Vista.

Q: What is volume licensing?

A: Volume licensing is a way for companies and businesses to purchase large amounts of OS with one license key instead of purchasing multiple consumer copies that carry different product keys.

Q: I noticed that they have two versions of an OS out: a 32-bit and a 64-bit, what are they and how can I figure out which version I am running?

A: Almost all mainstream OS and software companies tend to sell or release two versions of the product; a 32-bit (x86) and a 64-bit (x64). Many older systems built and purchased before 2006-07 have 32-bit processors inside of them while the majority of PC sales up until 2008 contain a 64-bit processor. Getting into the details between the two are beyond the scope of this FAQ, but overall the 64-bit processor can handle more data and support more memory (RAM) than its 32-bit predecessor. To find out which version you are using along with more information, click the following link: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/32-bit-and-64-bit-windows#1TC=windows-7.

Q: How would I go about making all of this easier for my company without having to worry about so much technical information?

A: Talk with your company’s IT staff or IT consulting when it comes to upgrading from Windows XP to see whether they are currently working on this project for both you and your staff. If you do not have any IT consulting and would like some help with upgrading from Windows XP, Office 2003, Exchange 2003 then please request more information at www.desktopco-op.com.

"The Digital Dentist" It Could Be Too Good To Be True

If you've been hearing reports of a "so called industry expert" claim to be "the" answer to all of your technology needs, it could be too good to be true.  Whether your business is a dental office, law office, accounting practice or restaurant, you want expertise and when it comes to technology, you want a technology expert.  

Someone who claims that he has 10 years of dental experience does not necessarily understand technology any more than he understands how to engineer the transmission in your SUV.  He has expertise, but it is in dentistry, not in technology.  He may know a lot about the different types of dental software applications and hardware, but does he know enough to keep your data safe? enough to keep intruders out of your system? enough to cloud enable your systems and processes and thereby save you thousands of dollars now and in the future?  We've noticed that he doesn't have what it takes.  We've noticed that he could be making an offer that is too good to be true.

We've noticed that the "industry experts" make a good case in the beginning, but when it comes to successfully implementing identity management, database, backup, security and email systems, they fail and the results are way below what you would experience with the average technology expert.  In one specific situation we observed, a newly installed "industry expert" system was left without many of the protections that we technology experts implement by default, protections like automatic updates, limited accounts and individual user accounts.  These protections are mandated by HIPAA and PCI compliance standards.  Failing these standards could lead to lost revenue and the inability to accept credit cards.  Before you let your practice fall in the hands of someone who claims to be an expert please let us review the promises they make.  They may be "experts" in their field, but we will point out cavities that require real technology expertise to fill.

When a UPS is Not a UPS.

If you're looking for a UPS (battery backup) to run your critical applications and services, don't just go online and make a quick purchase.  Realize that UPSes come in different sizes and varieties and you'll need to choose according to your situation.  

  • The key differentiation will be whether your equipment is using Active Power Factor Correction power supplies.  If so, you will need to purchase a UPS that supports that, otherwise, when the power goes out, your system will too.  
  • Another key factor is knowing whether your systems will be running on a generator.  If you're going to be using a generator, you'll want to make sure your UPSes use Double-Conversion  UPS Topology.  If you use Line-Interactive UPS Topology, your UPS may run on battery the whole time that your generator is providing power.  Unless you have a very brief power outage, your systems will eventually be without power and will fail.

If you need help sizing, purchasing, installing or configuring UPSes, please give us a call and we will be happy to assist. 

Older Citrix XenApp Infrastructure with New Clients

If you're using an older XenApp infrastructure like Secure Gateway 3.0 and you're unable to run the latest Receiver, but still need connectivity, this post is for you.  We've had success with using the Online Plug-in 12.3.  

One issue you may encounter when using the newer Receiver with older infrastructure is that the display may lock and stop updating unless you minimize the window and go back.  12.3 will most likely resolve this issue for you, but you may encounter other issues like "No value could be found for (ClientHosted Apps) that satisfies all lockdown requirements. The lockdown requirements in force may be conflicting."  If this happens, you can look for the String Value in the key "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Citrix\ICA Client\Engine\Lockdown Profiles\All Regions\Lockdown\Virtual Channels\Control" named "ClientHostedApps" and either create it or delete it.  This has solved the issue for us and others: https://forums.citrix.com/thread.jspa?threadID=293687.  

Tales of CryptoLocker

It sounds scary.  It's late October and someone mentions CryptoLocker.  Sounds like a bad Halloween movie, but it doesn't have to be so scary.  If you've been diligent in setting up your systems, you may have a minor bit of trouble with CryptoLocker, but that will soon go away just like the good Halloween candy.  If you've been one of these "setup and run" kind of installers, you may in for a scare.  CryptoLocker can cripple your computer and demand a "ransom" to unlock your files.  It's known as ransomware, and unlike a standard malware virus, this one holds your computer hostage until you pay up, giving specific instructions for the ransom.  It comes from opening an email or visiting a contaminated website and can disguise itself as jpeg files, pdf files or Microsoft Office files.  

When you setup a computer, you should be making sure it is setup correctly and follow some basic recommended best practices that will secure it from users and from malware.  By taking these simple steps when you setup a computer, you'll be protected from these kinds of scares and at most may lose few settings.  

  1. Install anti-virus and keep it up to date.
  2. Setup a limited user account for the user, even if it is going to be you and another separate account for the administrator for installing programs and doing maintenance.  Use the user account for your daily work.  Only use the administrator account when you have to install something and know that it's safe.
  3. Avoid browsing unknown sites. Use free services like OpenDNS  to help you control this.
  4. Use built-in protection against rogue applications by configuring applocker or at least software restriction policies.   For much older operating systems you can try appsec.
  5. Perform regular off-site backups. 

When you use a computer configured with these five steps and you encounter scary things like CryptoLocker, the scare will be on CryptoLocker.  The malware won't execute and at best it will execute under the user's login which will at most cause issues inside of that user's profile.  By simply renaming the user's profile and logging back in, the system will be back to normal.  

If you would like your systems configured correctly so you can avoid the next scare, please give us a call today.